LAW APOYNT: Digitized legal advice in times of crisis: Expert interview with CEO & lawyer Andreas Duckstein

Digitization is finding its way into all areas of industry and business, including law. How did you manage to establish yourself as a reliable and competent contact for law firms and legal departments in this field?

I was in a special position from the start. On the one hand, I’m a founder and partner of one fully digitized law firmwho works very efficiently and in a modern way and on the other hand I run a company that specializes in the digitization of law firms and legal departments in companies. We advise and support law firms, but we also develop our own software and special legal tech products.

So I know both the lawyer and the entrepreneur’s point of view. The law firms that we advise and support really appreciate being able to talk to a colleague from lawyer to lawyer and at the same time get the input and the perspective of an IT entrepreneur.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected and weakened many industries here. What effects does the crisis have on legal advice and, in particular, on digitization efforts in the industry?

Corona has shown with brutal clarity how important it is to be well positioned digitally. This ranges from electronic files and paperless office organization to mobile workstations and flexibility for employees. The lawyers who recognized this early on now have a decisive competitive advantage. Since the clients are now often in the home office, data protection-compliant, digital communication is essential. Only if you can work anywhere and on the move will that keep a law firm or legal department running permanently.

Since face-to-face contact should be avoided whenever possible, the importance of video and telephone meetings has grown enormously. In order for this to work and to comply with data protection regulations, the appropriate technology must be available on the one hand and how the medium is used must be clear on the other. Many lawyers had some catching up to do.

I think the pandemic gave digitization a big boost. Now it will be a matter of consistently pressing ahead with relevant projects.

Given the current events, when is the right time for me as a partner in a law firm to tackle the topic of digitization?

The earlier you tackle the subject, the better. Many colleagues have put it off in recent years and shied away from investments. Now it is high time to set the right course. The increasing electronic legal communication with the courts and the special, electronic attorney’s mailbox (beA) also increase the pressure to act.

It is important to look at the law firm or the legal department as a whole, adapt the processes and create a resilient structure. A new scanner is not enough, the entire organization has to be set up digitally. If you don’t do it right, you will quickly get a bloody nose.

As a lawyer, managing director, certified data protection officer and digitization expert, you can rely on a wide range of expertise. What is it that drives you?

Digitization and Legal Tech is like a big playground for me. If you are open and want to play, you can have a lot of fun and make new friends. It’s a huge opportunity that everyone should take advantage of and one that offers endless possibilities.

I always find it great to see the law firms we work with dive into the world of digital legal advice and develop further. It is important for our society that lawyers, as an independent body responsible for the administration of justice, have their finger on the pulse of the times and can efficiently offer their clients the best possible service. It’s nice when we can do our part.

What challenges is the digitalization of legal advice facing in general and how do you assess the future of the industry?

In my opinion, our industry is facing a major and profound change. It’s horrifying at times how stoic some lawyers are. The Digitization of legal advice and legal tech are not only reflected in digital work processes and electronic files, but more and more new competitors are also entering the market. These so-called alternative legal service providers are very successful in competing law firms for market shares and they are developing quickly. In consumer law in particular, digital business models are becoming increasingly established and acceptance among clients is growing.

The lawyer is no longer the undisputed provider of legal advice and the first point of contact. In many areas it is simply no longer important to the client that he is sitting across from a lawyer in a fancy law firm. He wants a solution to his problem and that with minimal cost and effort.

Lawyers have to learn to rethink and make their services available online, for example, and use digital services. This must then also be reflected in the price structure. The billing of legal work on an hourly basis or according to the statutory remuneration regulations is often difficult to get along with the new, digital possibilities. New models will have to be found here that are attractive to both the lawyer and the client.

Of course, going to the lawyer won’t go away entirely in the foreseeable future. There are simply situations in which the lawyer is the first choice and point of contact. Let’s take an example: in the future, many will use digital services to have a speed camera photo checked. But when a company takeover is pending or the woman wants a divorce and has taken the children with her, many clients want to see a real person in front of them, whom they trust and who stands up for them. The personal relationship is important sometimes. Nevertheless, the mandate can then be processed electronically and supported digitally.

Lawyers should focus on what they can do better than computers and algorithms. Those who manage to pick up their clients from where they stand, find a common language with them and offer them a simple, convenient and quick solution, will continue to exist in the future. All others will not be able to maintain the status quo in the long term.

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